Dirk Kuyt is not a player whose skills would be commemorated in a footballing equivalent of the Uffizi. That would be a place for Fernando Torres, while Kuyt is just the dependable one - a player whose place in the shadows of others was captured by Rafael Benitez's description of him before one Champions League game last season. "Technically he is not bad - the work rate is amazing," Benitez said. He was hardly covering Kuyt with glory.
But the workhorse has been quietly trundling towards a place among the gods and he might just reach it against Fiorentina tonight. Kuyt's knack of finding the net in the Champions League puts him within two goals of the 14 scored in the European Cup by Ian Rush, an achievement which renders meaningless the sniping at the weekend from his former team-mate Jermaine Pennant, who said Kuyt was only in the side to justify Benitez's £9m outlay on him to PSV Eindhoven in August 2006.
"I will not talk too much about what he [Pennant] says. Kuyt can talk on the pitch," the Liverpool manager said last night. "His record is there. He is a striker who can play as a winger or a second striker. If I decide to put Kuyt as centre-back he will be good anyway."
Fate has actually restored Kuyt to a central role in any case, occupying Steven Gerrard's seat in the hole while the captain supports further back, pending Alberto Aquilani's return to fitness in a few weeks. "I knew how good Torres was but playing there you learn where he wants the ball and the understanding is even better," Kuyt said of the new designation. The Dutchman was unaware of the Rush landmark until it was put to him. "That is unbelievable. [Rush] is one of the biggest names in the history of the Liverpool Football Club and it would give me a great feeling if I could manage to [beat it]."
Offensive players are the least Benitez's problems after a start to the season which is their best, goals-wise, in 115 years. The defence has been a different story - four clean sheets in nine - and Benitez again admitted that things can improve. "When we are attacking and attacking maybe we are a bit more exposed," he said. "To control the counter-attack is our job."
With Benitez missing Javier Mascherano, whose hamstring strain suffered during Liverpool's 6-1 win over Hull rendered him unfit to travel, it will be Gerrard's job to help the defence to manage the two withdrawn strikers, Adrian Mutu and Stevan Jovetic, who will operate in the absence of suspended frontman Alberto Gilardino. The battle between Mutu and Jamie Carragher, struggling to find some form, looks the most intriguing of the evening.
*Liverpool and their co-owner Tom Hicks continue to reject suggestions from the Middle East that Saudi Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud is about to buy up to a 50 per cent share of the club. The deputy managing director of the prince's F6 sports investment company, Gassim Hamidaddin, was quoted discussing "the possibility of buying a stake in Liverpool" yesterday. Liverpool maintained this position last night despite reports that Prince Faisal had begun the process of due diligence which would be a precursor to him buying some or all of George Gillett's 50 per cent share of the club.